The Indian women’s cricket team played two World Cup finals in four years. With a solid mix of smart spin bowlers, effective pacers and gutsy batters, they are quite a package. But it’s been seven years since they last played a Test match. They have not been through the mind and temperament switch that happens in the life of an all-format cricketer.
Though not in the best of circumstances — with COVID-19 continuing its wrath in the world — the Test comeback for the women will be no less than a semester. If they do well, there will be more, but if they don’t, nobody knows.
The women will be playing a one-off Test against England in Bristol from June 16, and a pink ball match under the lights against Australia in late September.
Ramesh Powar’s return as head coach is the sub-plot of the story.
W. V. Raman, who replaced Powar in 2018 after the latter’s fall-out with Mithali Raj, was shown the door.
The cricketers will hope to start a process under the new coach eyeing the 50-over World Cup in 2022.
Amid the success chapters, there lies a pall of gloom as Priya Punia from the touring party lost her mother to the dreaded virus. And Veda Krishnamurthy isn’t part of the series after twin tragedies — the demise of her mother and sister —in the family due to COVID.
Cameron speaks again
There seems to be no end to the Sandpapergate controversy. In a recent interview, Cameron Bancroft, who was banned for scuffing the ball with a piece of sandpaper in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in 2018, said the bowlers could have been aware of the ball-tampering plan.
Besides Bancroft, then captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner had faced sanctions.
Once the Cricket Australia integrity unit contacted Bancroft for more information, he said the interview was misconstrued and that he was left flustered by an unexpected line of questioning. This, however, led to a strongly-worded statement from bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon who denied having any knowledge of such a plan.
Later, current skipper Tim Paine enlightened that the players cleared the air among each other. “I think they’re frustrated that it keeps popping up but I think that’s part and parcel for everyone who played in that Test match. Their mood was fine, I think they’ve spoken to (Bancroft), cleared the air there and I think everyone’s looking forward to moving on,” he told reporters.
End of AB retirement saga
There is no doubt that AB de Villiers remains one of the best T20 batsmen in the world even at 37. And that’s why even after his retirement in 2018, the name keeps popping up before every ICC tournament. He is fit and has been a superstar in the Indian Premier League for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Ahead of the Cricket World Cup in 2019, de Villiers offered to help but was turned down by the team management.
New coach Mark Boucher wanted to gather the best short-format players ahead of the T20 World Cup and de Villiers was back in the discussions. But the batsman decided to stick to his decision as he didn’t want to come ahead of a player already in the system.
“AB has his reasons, which I respect. Unfortunately, he's no longer in the mix. I say unfortunately because I think we all agree that he’s still one of the best — if not the best — T20 players in world cricket,” Boucher was quoted as saying in The Citizen .
Pakistan clinches series in Zimbabwe
After Pakistan’s shock defeat in one of the T20I games, one may have expected Zimbabwe to fight in the Test series; well, at least in one or two sessions. The African nation looked in complete disarray against a settled Pakistan line-up that batted only once in the two Tests to win by an innings on both occasions.
Abid Ali (215 off 407) and Azhar Ali (126 off 240) laid the foundation with the bat that propelled Pakistan to 510 for the loss of eight wickets at declaration. Zimbabwe could only manage 132 and 231, failing to negotiate against the swing of Shaheen Afridi and the spin of Nauman Ali.
The 34-year-old Ali, who made his Test debut earlier this year, turned the tide by scoring a quick 97 with the bat before running through the batters. The slow left-arm orthodox bowler claimed the second five-for (5/86) of his career.